July 31, 2013

Emma‘Failed By the NHS’ follows Jonny as he meets other young people who, like him, feel that they haven’t received the care they needed for their mental health problems. These young people feel as though GP’s, A&E and the child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) have been unable to offer the support they needed.

I first got diagnosed with depression when I was 13

I first got diagnosed with depression when I was 13. I was self harming, feeling suicidal and had a very poor outlook on life. I went to my GP with my mum, and he referred me to CAMHS. I was immediately given anti depressants, but I also had CBT therapy. Throughout my time with CAMHS I had many ups and downs. The therapist I saw was wonderful. She listened to me like it was more than her job and seemed to have real understanding and compassion.

Unfortunately, despite my helpful therapy, I continued to feel suicidal. When I was around 15 I attempted suicide and was rushed to A&E. I was given the usual blood tests, but I didn’t have a psychiatric assessment. As the documentary stated, 50% of people who present at A&E feeling suicidal or after self-harm don’t receive a psychiatric assessment. Instead, I was taken to a children’s ward for 5 days, where at 15, I was surrounded by babies and toddlers. I felt like they did this as a punishment. The nurses spoke down to me, and made me feel that I was wasting their time. But when mental illness affects 1 in 10 young people, shouldn’t I have been entitled to the same compassionate care as any young person with a physical problem would get?

I went to A&E about 5 times with my mental illness

Over the years, I went to A&E about 5 times with my mental illness. Emma, who featured in the show, says that she had been to A&E 6 or 7 times for self harm injuries. Each time they tended to her physical wounds, but she never received a psychiatric assessment. (A doctor who featured in the show said “not having access to psychiatrists in A&E can be a matter of life or death.”

Even if people were receiving proper assessments in A&E, the waiting times are still hugely disappointing. In the show we hear the tragic story of Chris Ferrin, who once waited 8 hours in A&E. He begged for help but after such a long wait, he frantically fled. 5 days after going to A&E and not receiving help, he was found dead. His family are still devastated by his death, but also incredibly angry at the injustice their son faced.

The show talks a lot expereinces of talking to GPs

The show talks a lot about the young peoples experiences of getting help from their GPs. Aged 18, Jonny spoke to a GP and despite his doctor being aware of his suicidal thoughts, he was simply recommended to get regular exercise and to eat healthier food. Nick was initially prescribed 20mg of Fluoxetine a day when he was aged 13 to treat depression and the symptoms of OCD. A year ago, he was prescribed three times the original dosage without being warned about the possible side effects.

One of the problems young people can face in speaking to their GP is that they have a very short time to really explain their thoughts and feelings, which often they don’t fully understand themselves. Over the years, I have been on many kinds of psychiatric medications. Through taking one particular type, I started to lose my hair and my periods completely stopped. I was never warned that such severe things could happen.

Norman Lamb, Minister of State for Care & Support, says in the documentary that GP’s are not trained adequately in mental health problems, and that there is not sufficient understanding. He proposes the helpful suggestion that GP’s take an extra years training, which would include mental health training.

We need to continue to talk about mental illness

When I got to the age of 16, I was feeling a lot happier, but still taking medication. It was decided that I would be discharged from CAMHS. Like Kimberley, who had anxiety and depression, when she got discharged from child services, she wasn’t aware that an adult service existed. There seems a huge gap between the 2 services, and very little communication between them and about it. Chloe who has bipolar disorder was given an appointment with CAMHS 4 days after her 18th birthday. When she attended, she was told she couldn’t be seen. She had to beg them for help. A study in London found that shockingly, only 4% of people felt happy with the transition from child to adult services. For myself, it took my depression to worsen and lose my job before I could access adult services at 17.

I was really pleased that the show dedicated time to explain mindfulness and its benefits in helping with mental health problems. I was lucky enough to be offered Dialectical behavioural therapy, which features a lot of mindfulness. It helped me immensely and I would even say it saved my life.

Mental illness is so common, that the chances are that 1 in 4 adults will experience some form of it. I believe that, with the work that Time to Change do, we need to continue to talk about mental illness.

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